Pennsylvania has joined the growing number of states whose national representatives were publicly accused of sexual assault in the past year on Dec. 17.
Pennsylvania Democratic State Senator Daylin Leach was accused of sexual misconduct and asked to step down by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. Eight women and three men, all former staffers of the Senator, alleged Leach had inappropriate contact and sexual conversations with female staffers in the office.
Wolf released a statement calling for Leach’s resignation saying "this disturbing behavior is absolutely unacceptable." Leach responded in a Jan. 7 column in the Philadelphia Inquirer apologizing for any actions or "humor" people found offensive.
Penn Democrats had been in communication with Leach last semester about a possible appearance at Penn in the coming months, President of Penn Dems and Wharton sophomore Dylan Milligan said.
As soon as the allegations surfaced, however, Milligan said Penn Dems broke off contact with Leach's campaign and decided not to host the Senator. He added that he thinks Leach should step down.
“It has to be a consistent policy among Democrats that there’s just zero tolerance," Milligan said. "We are part of this era where accountability is important."
College and Wharton sophomore Michael Moroz, co-director of the editorial board of College Republicans, had a different take on the issue of whether or not Leach should step down.
“It does seem like there is some credibility to the accusations," Moroz said. "With that being said, I think we ought to be careful with asking people to resign. I would be more comfortable with that request were there already some kind of formal investigation.”
Penn political science professor Marc Meredith explained that recent sexual assault allegations, like the one against Leach, have greatly impacted the Democratic party.
“Democrats, when they campaign in 2018 and 2020, I think are going to make this issue part of their platform,” Meredith said, citing Wolf's public denouncement of Leach's behavior as a possible precedent for the party.
President of the Penn Government & Politics Association and College sophomore Hayley Boote did not take a partisan stance on the issue, but stressed the importance of being informed and active when it comes to state and local politics.
“Having national attention on an issue is super important, but there’s a lot to be said for small issues and for students getting involved because they can really make a difference," Boote said.
Wolf’s press secretary, J.J. Abbott, said that Wolf hopes to create an environment that supports victim testimony.
“The governor has made it clear that he wants to make sure that people, whether they work for him or are visiting the capital, have a means to come forward,” Abbott said. “He does feel that state government could benefit from more diversity, including having more women in elected office and leadership positions in the capital."
Pennsylvania has historically had few women in state Congress and currently no women represent the state on a federal level, according to Penn political science professor Dawn Teele.
She said she thinks that this lack of female representation may have contributed to Wolf’s decision to publicly ask Leach to step down.
“It’s not in any way good, given [Pennsylvania's] abysmal numbers, to have a party that is presenting a face that is basically not that open to women’s success,” Teele said.
Senator Leach has served since 2009 as one of Pennsylvania's fifty state senators and is currently running for Congress — and despite criticism after these allegations, he has made no indication that he plans on resigning or ending his campaign.
Leach's office did not respond to requests for comment on this article.
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